The Controversial Charlie Daniels Part II - Soapbox Jr.
“I’m the kinda man wouldn’t harm a mouse, but if I catch somebody breakin’ in my house, I got a 12-gauge shotgun waitin’ on the other side” – Charlie Daniels 1989
The controversies continue!
One of the most popular songs on the 'Fire on the Mountain' album was the rebellious anthem called "Long Haired Country Boy." It was an ode to a free-spirited simple life, with the title character emphasizing his carefree lifestyle with lines like "I get stoned in the morning, I get drunk in the afternoon," and later declaring, "I don't want much of nothin’ at all, but I will take another toke."
However, in the mid-1980s, something changed. A transformation occurred within Dad’s heart. He delved deeper into his faith and made personal adjustments. Although he still occasionally indulged in a drink, he no longer felt right singing positively about getting drunk in the afternoon. Unlike Willie, Dad chose to abstain from partaking of the old skunkweed and no longer believed in advocating for getting stoned.
So, he temporarily retired "Long Haired Country Boy" from his setlist but brought it back a few years later with some modifications. In the first verse, he altered the line to "I get up in the morning, I get down in the afternoon." And when it came to the final verse, the “toke” line transformed into "...but I will tell another joke."
While most people have been in the "It's his song, he can do what he wants" camp, some adamantly opposed the changes.
But they missed the essence of the song entirely.
If you don’t like the fact that he wanted to change the lyrics, then you can leave the formerly long haired country boy alone.
It’s pretty simple; it’s right there in the rest of the song if you just pay attention.
In 1982, there was a reevaluation regarding our valiant soldiers who had served in Vietnam. Many of these heroes had been unfairly vilified by the media, as well as an ambitious Navy Lieutenant who returned and testified before the U.S. Senate, helping to reinforce the tarnished reputation of his comrades in arms as rapists and monsters.
During that time, my dad received a song from a talented songwriter named Dan Daley. The song beautifully depicted the struggles faced by Vietnam veterans, bravely battling PTSD and enduring allegations of war crimes, even within their own families.
Dad personally knew several Vietnam veterans, including Rick Rentz, the head of security for the CDB on the road. I wouldn't be surprised if Dad played the song for Rick while he contemplated recording the song.
The song struck a chord with Vietnam veterans and those from the Vietnam era. They were drawn to Dad, and over the years, he received countless POW/MIA bracelets—more than he could ever wear, although he proudly wore many of them. Meeting these veterans became a regular occurrence during the post-show meet and greets.
Controversy never bothered Dad that much, but this particular issue held great importance to him. Despite a small minority of despicable conduct within our military, the reputations of Vietnam veterans had been tarnished. Dad believed this song could help set things right, shedding light on the problems they faced—a long-overdue recognition.
Controversy would resurface a few years later when Dad released the song "Simple Man." While the tune resonated with much of the country music audience, weary of the epidemic of violent crime plaguing our nation, it also offended those who interpreted the lyrics as advocating vigilantism and lawlessness when dealing with rapists and drug dealers who preyed on children.
The best word I can find that fits is a Greek one that I learned from Pastor Allen Jackson,
Baloney! It means I strongly disagree.
But seriously, folks…
"Simple Man" was more than just a song. It was a passionate call to take violent crime seriously—a plea for someone to step up and take a stand. If our officials were unwilling to do what needed to be done, then logic dictated that someone else should. Yet, deep down, nobody truly desired such a drastic turn of events.
Despite its powerful message, a few country radio stations refused to play the song. Consequently, it fell short of reaching the coveted top ten, although the album itself achieved platinum status—an impressive feat for a country record back in those days.
But what's truly staggering is how crime has escalated since then. Especially in 2020, right before Dad left us. Looking back now, 1989 almost feels like the peaceful 1950s. It's disheartening to witness the leniency of the "panty waist" judges and prosecutors who refuse to punish criminals.
It’s no wonder that "Simple Man" has experienced a resurgence in recent years. It consistently ranks among the top three most-streamed CDB songs, and views for the song’s music video on YouTube have skyrocketed. The song's relevance has stood the test of time.
Following the 9/11 attacks, Dad fearlessly leaped into the fire. He recorded two songs—one in 2001 and another in 2002—inspired by the tragic events. Additionally, he released a live version of "In America," altering the lyrics to refer to "our enemies" instead of Russians, although you could easily change it back now.
The first song, "This Ain't No Rag, It's a Flag," stood as a defiant patriotic anthem. It ruffled some feathers, particularly with the line "We don't wear it on our heads." Certain groups, particularly Sikhs who wore turbans, expressed their offense.
Dad remained unwavering and clarified that unless you were responsible for flying planes into buildings on September 11, 2001, the song wasn't about you. It struck a nerve with country audiences when it was recorded and released in early October, earning Dad a charting song on the radio for the first time in several years.
However, everything changed when Alan Jackson performed "Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)" in early November at the CMA Awards. This somber and reflective song became the tone embraced by radio, overshadowing the anger expressed in "This Ain't No Rag..."
The CDB's other controversial post-9/11 song was "The Last Fallen Hero," written and recorded in 2002. It referred to the 9/11 hijackers as "the devil and his angels," pledging that America would do whatever it took to win the fight until the last fallen hero found peace.
PBS approached the CDB to be part of their annual "A Capitol 4th" special live from Washington, D.C. From what I recall, Barry Bostwick hosted and performed in what was typically a patriotic extravaganza. Dad wanted to perform "The Last Fallen Hero," but the show's producers deemed its tone didn’t fit for what essentially amounted to a red, white, and blue pep rally.
Since the producers refused to let Dad pay tribute to the lives lost on 9/11 on the first 4th of July following that tragic day, Dad pulled out of the show. However, the story doesn't end there. The Nashville PBS affiliate caught wind of the situation and invited Dad to perform the song in their studio, airing it before the special. Several other PBS affiliates across the country followed suit.
The last musical controversy I recall was only controversial to a small but vocal minority. In "Let 'em Win, or Bring 'em Home," Dad paid tribute to our servicemen and women, honoring those who had made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom and their families. It served as a plea to politicians to step aside and let these soldiers do the jobs they were trained for or bring them back home.
The final verse took a direct shot at the Westboro Baptist Church, notorious for protesting the funerals of our fallen military heroes. Somehow, they claimed that the country's softening stance on homosexuality was the cause of these brave soldiers' deaths.
I feel the need to insert that Greek word again…
How anyone could make a cause-and-effect out of that is baffling to me.
Whether you believe in the traditional view of marriage, as I do, or embrace the notion that there are 1,700 genders, there's an undeniable truth that this alleged church with their "GOD HATES FAGS" signs tragically overlooks: God loves us, plain and simple. He may detest the choices we make, certain aspects of our lives, or even our lifestyles, but His love for His children is unwavering. He yearns for us to find our way back to Him, when we stray.
Dad fearlessly called them out for their absurdity.
Being the patriotic soul he was, Dad had simply had enough of their antics. He decided to include a line in “Let ‘em Win, or Bring ‘em Home,” highlighting that the "church" was unworthy even to untie our soldiers' bootlaces. Naturally, they jumped into attack mode, as they were prone to do.
They posted protest schedules for some of the CDB shows, though it appeared that they rarely attended. I did hear about one bitter cold show in Kansas where a couple of individuals, clutching their signs, futilely chased after the departing band bus; I don’t remember any other sightings.
But their actions reached a new low when they released a "parody" of "The Devil Went Down to Georgia." In this repulsive rendition, they placed Dad on the devil's side instead of opposing him and proceeded to spew an abominable outlook for Dad’s afterlife. It was an appallingly disgusting display of hatred.
Nevertheless, with Dad's unwavering love for God, his dedication to his country, and his profound affection for his family, friends and fans, I'm confident that his final abode boasts exceptional air conditioning.
The final controversies I can recall would likely require an extensive analysis, more than I can squeeze in here.
In 2000, Dad embarked on what he called his "Soapbox" series—a term forever entwined with his legacy, which I am committed to keeping alive.
Through his soapboxes, he tackled an array of subjects, ranging from shopping adventures with Mom, SEC football, the changing of seasons and numerous other topics. However, most of the time, his soapboxes delved into topical issues, taking on figures like Bill Clinton, Chuck Schumer, Michael Moore, Barack Obama, and Adam Schiff, and addressed hot-button topics such as 9/11, the War on Terror, and much more.
In 2001, he wrote a soapbox advocating for political figures with the courage to speak the unadulterated truth to the American public, regardless of how unpopular those opinions might be. He covered topics from the health risks of smoking to the need to control illegal immigration and the belief that homosexuality is not the norm.
Naturally, this rubbed some people the wrong way. When Dad was being honored with a star on the Walk of Fame in his hometown of Wilmington, NC, there were murmurs of protests. While there may have been a few individuals displaying signs in the crowd, from what I recall, the ceremony proceeded without any disruption or shouting matches.
The most significant shift between 2001 and a few years later was that back then, you could still hold differing opinions without being ruthlessly beaten down for them. But around 2002, that began to change. Anonymous online trolls discovered the power to hurl the vilest remarks with impunity, hiding behind computer screens.
Dad had his opinions, and he had every right to voice them. Likewise, others with differing viewpoints had the same right; we can agree to disagree.
However, at some point, it seemed that the left became intolerant of any opinion that didn't align with their own. If you dared to deviate, you were instantly branded an evil, misogynistic, racist bigot, rendering your perspective inconsequential.
It's bully censorship. Nobody wants to be labeled a racist, so when that card is automatically played, many people choose to back down, fearing the tarnishing of their reputation.
Following the tragic murder of a black church group in South Carolina, a backlash ensued against anything associated with the South's history, given that the perpetrator had posed for a picture with a Confederate battle flag.
Dad, the proud Southern boy he was, tried to clarify his stance on the flag, emphasizing that in his mind, and for countless others, it symbolized Southern pride rather than racism. For those who truly knew Dad, it was evident that he harbored not a single racist bone in his body. Growing up in the Jim Crow South, he quickly learned the difference between right and wrong, even if it wasn't immediately evident when he was young.
That’s about all I can fit into this Soapbox Jr., but there were plenty of others; maybe I’ll do a Part III at some point.
Despite the controversies, Dad remained steadfast in his beliefs, unyielding to the pressure of public opinion. He held true to his values, defending what he believed in and facing the world with unwavering courage. And that's precisely why his legacy endures—a beacon of truth, resilience, and unwavering conviction.
That’s one of the millions of things I loved about him, and why I keep doing what I can to keep his legacy and his message alive for future generations, and I will hold steadfast to that mission.
What do you think?
Let’s all make the day count!
Pray for our troops, our police, the Peace of Jerusalem and our nation.
God Bless America!
— Charlie Daniels, Jr.
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